Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday identified Rath Rott Mony as a producer of a sex trafficking documentary dismissed by the government as fake news and for which he is facing up to three years in jail.
Mr Rott Mony, who has maintained he was just a news fixer, not a producer for the Russia Today film, was charged with incitement to discriminate over his involvement in the film, “My Mother Sold Me”.
The news documentary detailed destitute families in Cambodia selling off their daughters’ virginity for about $400 each, and when their girls’ virginity was lost, they were then forced into prostitution.
In court yesterday, Judge Kouy Sao showed the documentary, noting where he spotted Mr Rott Mony credited as one of three producers of the film.
“You said you were just a translator or news fixer. How come your name was written as a producer in the film,” Judge Sao asked.
Mr Rott Mony quickly replied he was just a news fixer who assisted in translation and his role was clearly written in documents, which he provided to the authorities before production began.
Broadcast in October online, the film told the story of a young girl whose virginity was reportedly sold by her mother.
After it went viral, the mother and daughter featured in it retracted their statements after being questioned by police as the government dismissed it as fake news.
Six witnesses appeared before the judge yesterday, including Kav Malay and Khieng Sreymich, the mother and daughter who retracted their statements when questioned by police.
Ms Malay told the judge that she was convinced to partake in the film after Mr Rott Mony told her the film production could help her in solving a land dispute.
“At that time, I had financial problems so I needed money,” she said. “My daughter and me were given about $100. I thought no harm would come from the film because it would not be broadcast in the country.”
Pointing at Mr Rott Mony, Ms Sreymich said she was directed in the film to reveal a story, which was actually her friend’s story.
“It’s not my story but my friend’s. He [Mr Rott Mony] told me that even though the video would be broadcast overseas, my face would be blurred. He lied,” she said.
Ms Sreymich was interviewed in the film at her school, Indra Tevi High School in Phnom Penh. School rector Nak Sothea also appeared before the judge yesterday.
Mr Sothea told the judge that Mr Rott Mony requested to film a Khmer Rouge documentary at the school.
“Many leaders of this state school blamed me because I allowed them to shoot. I was hurt because the film ruined the school’s reputation,” he said.“I want him to understand that this is his fault.”
Tep Salim, the mother of another young girl featured in the film, also appeared in court yesterday.
“He asked me to act, to express a pitiful face and to cry in the film,” she said. “He said that the more real I acted, the more opportunity I would have to receive foreign aid after the production was done.”
Lim Sreyty, Ms Salim’s 17-year-old daughter, was identified in the film as a girl who sold her virginity and worked in a nightclub. She told the court that Mr Rott Mony also told her to act in the film.
“[Mr Rott Mony] said I would get more money if I hit the acting points,” she said. “Therefore, I said I slept with many guests.”
Ms Sreyty noted that during the filming, Mr Rott Mony promised her that she would be offered enough money to open a hair salon, and a laundry store for her mother.
Ms Sreyty also told the judge that she is a close friends with Un Sreypich, who was also featured in the film, noting that her friend has since disappeared.
After Mr Rott Mony was arrested and charged, Ms Sreypich told Khmer Times that the video revealed the truth about her – an orphan who entered the sex industry at a young age.
At the end of the hearing yesterday, defence lawyer Lor Chunty requested the judge drop the charges against Mr Rott Mony, noting that his client was just a translator for the film.
However, deputy prosecutor Vong Bunvisoth said the accused played a significant role in the production and should be convicted.
A verdict is due June 26.